[TISEA] Frances Bonner – Pretty Pictures, Heavy Thoughts


Televised science programs often use computer graphics to represent phenomena not only too complex to model without major computer assistance, but also those that have previously been considered too abstract for popular television coverage. Perhaps the prime example of this has been the Equinox program ‘Chaos’, first transmitted on Channel 4 in the UK in 1988, but subsequently screened and rescreened in various countries around the world. Segments of the program  -especially the fractals that dominate the visuals- have been incorporated into and reiterated in, other programs made since. With computer graphics of this kind, the televisual domination of chemistry and biology has been challenged. Although substantial use of computer graphics is evident across the board, imaging systems have made mathematical theory and the more abstruse regions of physics visually interesting to the lay viewer. In this they have challenged the way in which the field of scientific investigation is popularly viewed. It is debatable whether the prominence would have been the same without the recent higher profile in TV science programs (even in brief TV news bulletins given to stories on the discovery of supporting evidence for the Big Bang theory which itself depends on computer-enhanced information for its evidence). The fascination with computer-generated images includes a fascination with the processes of their generation. The most recent area of such fascination is with Virtual Reality. Subsequent attempts to represent a personal 3D experience in a public two-dimensional space (e.g. ‘Colonising Cyberspace’ on Horizon) will be the principal focus of the paper. Television’s fascination with investigating this phenomenon (which is already impossible torepresent on TV) extends from science programming to 2D cinema.


Frances Bonner (Australia)  Biography

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